Learning to Say “No”

Years ago, I learned that I could fill up my days and nights professionally – to max capacity – if I would only give away my services free of charge.  There are plenty of takers for high quality (and some of more questionable quality, too), inexpensive or complementary, products and services.  And, of course, everyone wants a bargain.  Sure, sure… I understand that idea of offering discounts, pro bono, or in-kind opportunities for marketing purposes, for professional development purposes, for charity, and a number of other good reasons to do good, gain exposure, and show off your wares.  However, it is next to impossible to build a business on free stuff… you can’t make it up in volume! 

It was with that mindset that I recently – and, quite honestly, reluctantly – declined an “opportunity.”  I was invited to give a talk on one of my favorite subjects, professional networking.  The talk is something that I have probably done 10,000 times – no kidding.  I could give the commentary sleep walking and with one hand tied behind my back while hopping on one leg.  But, I didn’t develop my content or earn my reputation as a connector or learn to deliver a compelling presentation overnight.  It took me years to do.  And, it is precisely this skillset that allows me to earn a living.  Plus, while a very nice person, the gal who contacted me to give the free talk is not with a charity… is not a current or former client… is not likely to purchase services from me down the line… and, there are probably other organizations for which I could justify a giveaway more readily than this one.

Can you relate to any of this?

If you, too, are not in the business of donating your services for little to no revenue, then here are a few tips for you:

  1. Know your worth.  Price yourself accordingly.  Whatever products and services you offer, know your value.  Come up with a rack rate.  Acknowledge that large clients may have more access to resources like people and money than small clients, and for-profit clients may have more means than not-for-profit clients.  Feel free to price your offerings differently based both on what the market will bear and on client type/size.  Understand that those who actually pay for your wares will value them more highly and take more from what you deliver.

  2. Establish ground rules for yourself.  When you give away products and services, what criteria do you use for your decision-making?  Document it.  By doing so, it will help you to quickly assess a situation and determine when you will provide a discount, when you will make it available for free, and when you will charge full bore.

  3. Be prepared to pay for – or barter for – the services you need to hire out.  Just as you want to be paid for what you deliver, so, too, do the vendors who you turn to for products and services you need.  Insist on paying people.  If you can’t afford their pricing, see if you can work out a deal whereby you can establish a trade or bartering arrangement.

Remember, when you walk away from a gratis gig, unless you have a particular connection to the person or organization doing the asking, or if it could provide a solid marketing opportunity for you, you are not really walking away from anything at all.  Stand up for yourself.  Know your worth.  It’s ok to say, “no.”  Others will respect you for it – you’ll be proud of yourself.

Happy Networking!

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